SYRACUSE — Mayor Jamie Nagle got a test of her authority to have a resident removed from a city meeting on Tuesday, minutes before the city council voted to table a new outline of rules of conduct which spells out the mayor’s and other council members’ authority and guidelines for order.
During the open portion of the meeting, resident Joe Levi was openly critical of the mayor and the new proposed rules of order the council was to consider later on the agenda.
Levi, who is part of a group called Syracuse Citizens for Fair Rules in Public Meetings, went after Nagle and said the rules gave the position too much authority. He suggested at one point it gave the mayor dictatorial powers, by allowing the city’s top elected official to remove a citizen perceived to be unruly at their discretion.
“The mayor will essentially have the power to silence citizens if she doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. Will she wield that power?” Levi asked.
When Levi was told his allotted time was up, he continued to talk on the subject, sparking a confrontation with Nagle, who said there are groups set up to make her look bad.
When Levi appeared to press a point, the mayor asked Police Chief Brian Wallace to have the resident removed. The chief approached the speaker and said he could sit down peacefully or be removed from the meeting.
After a minute or so of an ongoing verbal exchange between Nagle and Levi, Councilman Alan Clark asked that Levi simply sit down out of respect for the council.
He did so.
The meeting marked the second straight exchange between Levi and the mayor. At a meeting in September Levi criticized Nagle and city officials for not having a public document prescribing rules of order for their meetings, as he said are required by state law.
City Recorder Cassie Brown, working with City Attorney Todd Godfrey, had drawn up six pages of guidelines for officials to consider, utilizing exciting city code and guidelines, among other sources.
The matter became more complicated in the council’s work session, before the general meeting, when Councilman Larry Shingleton passed out two different handouts on possible guidelines outlined by the Utah League of Cities and Towns and asked they be reviewed, before any council action.
Several members of the council felt the outline presented by Brown addressed the suggested ULCT guidelines, but there was enough question that the issue was never finalized.
When the council did come to a potential vote on the guidelines the matter was quickly tabled by a unanimous vote. Council members are likely to address the issue in a meeting in November.
Discussion of the issue continued after the council finished its regular business.
Brown asked to have a comment entered on the record, feeling as if the criticism of the new guidelines was leveled at her.
In her remarks, Nagle told Brown she had been caught in the crosshairs of something aimed at her, not the city recorder’s office.
“I don’t think it was directed at you. I think it was directed at me,” Nagle said.
Nagle also refused to apologize for asking the resident to be removed, saying she would defend the city’s staff.
Nagle is not up for re-election this year.
Ironically, one of the guidelines in the tabled sets of guidelines calls for civility in council meetings. Those proposals also suggest the mayor is to “maintain order” at meetings and to move along the agenda in a “sensitive way.”
The proposal also stipulated the council shall not engage in personal attacks and shall restrict comments to issues before the body.
Any violations of decorum or conduct of council members shall be addressed by the mayor, who may declare a member out of order, the rule said.